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Kings Island Amusement Park: King for 50 Years
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Opening in 1972 in Mason, Ohio, Kings Island is celebrating its 50th anniversary. When it opened, the park had 60 attractions; today it has over 100.

Its history has been celebrated before, with the return of the classic Kings Mills Antique Autos back in 2019, which allowed visitors the ability to drive an antique vehicle through lush gardens. However, that same year, another classic, the Vortex, was retired.

Recent newcomers include 2019's Miami River Brew House serving craft beers; 2020's Orion giga roller coaster; and the retheming of the area around the giant coaster as Area 72, including a new restaurant called the Meteor Canteen. The following year, Kings Island Camp Cedar luxury resort opened north of the park, offering guests both an RV resort and luxury lodging; The Racer was also refurbished in 2021, adding 500-feet of track. This year, in honor of Kings Island's golden anniversary, a series of modifications were made to The Beast; The Racer received a refurbishment – repainted to its original red, white, and blue façade; and the long-present Kings Island & Miami Valley Railroad refurbished its town section.

The 50th celebration took place on April 29th, shortly after the park's opening date of April 16th, with ongoing Golden Celebration happenings starting on May 28th , and running throughout the year.

The park began as the brainchild of Gary Wachs, the son of Coney Island's Ralph Wachs. His idea to revamp the then-Coney Island and come together with the CEO of Cincinnati's Taft Broadcasting, who wanted to promote Hanna-Barbera's animated characters at a theme park.

The new park was named King's Island, both due to the park's location in Kings Mill and as a tribute to its former moniker, Coney Island. Opening highlights were the 1/3 replica of the Eiffel Tower on International Street; the Happy Land of Hanna Barbera featuring characters such as the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and Yogi Bear; and a ride called Enchanted Voyage, somewhat of an homage to It's a Small World. Rivertown, which focused on Ohio history, was the home of the Kings Island & Miami Valley Railroad, as well as what was then Kings Mill's Log Flume, now known as Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.

A bevy of Coney Island rides, such as the Grand Carousel, Cuddle Up and Tumble Bug occupied places in the Old Coney section of Kings Island.

The park's first new coaster was The Racer; at the time it was the first large-scale roller-coaster ride built since 1947, which may seem incredible now, with parks vying for new coaster status frequently; however, in 1972, it helped to begin the roller coaster renaissance. It was the first thrill coaster for Kings Island, as well as marking a new beginning for coaster enthusiasm in the U.S.

Another first: pizza. The pizza concession at the park was so popular it began the trend for amusement parks to sell pizza as a food choice.

The park's inaugural season drew 2-million visitors. The park was made popular at least in part due to some celebrity guests: The Brady Bunch themselves rode rides at the park in an episode, including the then-teen-heartthrob David Cassidy.

Today, the park is still going strong. In the early 90s, it was purchased by Paramount Parks, with attraction names changing to reflect the new ownership, featuring coasters that were then called Top Gun and Face/Off as well as a Nickelodeon kids ride area. Now owned by Cedar Fair, which purchased the park in 2006 for $1.25 billion dollars, those Paramount-themed names are no more, with Top Gun and Face/Off now the Bat and Invertigo, and the Nickelodeon area rethemed to the world of Peanuts. In 2012, the Kings Island waterpark, then called Boomerang Bay, was renamed as Soak City.  

This year, things could've gotten wetter, but Cedar Fair said no to an offer of purchase by SeaWorld Entertainment. Despite a major drop in attendance due to the pandemic, Cedar Fair has rebounded well from COVID-19.

As to the 50th anniversary celebration itself, the park went all out. Special food items from a small 50th anniversary birthday cake that serves 2-4 guests, and Decade-dent Cupcakes served at the park's Sweet Spot, to an Eiffel Tower-shaped pretzel served at The French Corner, abound. That pretzel is only made in batches of 50 per day, making it a coveted item. At the Chicken Shack, super spicy chicken wings with coconut and spicy sauce are dubbed the Screamin' Demon after a popular, but no longer existing, roller coaster.

Original live-performance shows celebrate the park's history; and a nightly, large-scale fireworks show runs through the summer season, lighting up the sky at 10 p.m. for 14 minutes, when the park closes. The evening's memory-stirring finale is narrated by Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch.

Limited-edition 50th Anniversary merchandise is available for sale, including sweatshirts and hoodies, key rings, pins, and glassware, all in the park's navy, white, and gold theme colors.

Daily admission tickets are priced at $44.99; two-day tickets are $89.99. The season closes on October 30th after the park's Halloween celebration; season Gold Passes purchased now include the remainder of this season and all of 2023 and are priced at $130.00.

Running September 23rd through October 29th, the park's seasonal event, Halloween Haunt is back this year, transforming the park into a series of scare mazes and scare zones.
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